Currently based in New York, Chuck Graef was born in Spokane, Washington, and began composing at the age of 6. His mother was a professional cellist, his father a pianist, and his brother and sister music majors on French horn and piano, respectively, while the extended family included a number of professional musicians, composers, and a choreographer.
Hearing Wendy Carlos’s “Switched-On Bach” at age 7 blew his mind and sparked a lifelong love for electronic sound. He was fortunate enough to meet Herb Deutsch marketing the newly-introduced Minimoog at the tiny Island County Fair on Whidbey Island at the age of 8, and with the obsessiveness of a teenager he began renting and multitracking synthesizers at 13.
While his school years found him preoccupied with and very active in composing and recording on piano and multi-tracked synth as well as writing for orchestra, Chuck felt drawn as well to art and filmmaking. After high school he moved to New Orleans where he spent two years absorbing the atmosphere of its historic neighborhoods and experiencing its living culture of blues, traditional jazz, and zydeco. In 1983 he moved to New York to attend Columbia University.
While at Columbia he frequented galleries and museums almost daily and during the 90s, while recording and performing music, he created conceptual audio and video installations and sculpture pieces that were exhibited in downtown New York galleries. These included a large outdoor steel sculpture titled “Cloverleaf Interchange” installed temporarily under the Brooklyn Bridge, and his video installation “Magellanic Clouds” at Dooley Le Cappellaine Gallery. He collaborated on performance art, and created a play titled “The Uncomfortable Three” at downtown theater legend Richard Foreman’s Ontological Theater. He was employed by the estates of the artists Jean Michel Basquiat and Robert Mapplethorpe, and conducted interviews with Vito Acconci, Alice Aycock, and others for a video documentary about the celebrated conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheim.
In 1999 Chuck was able to assemble the modular synthesizer he’d dreamt of owning since “Switched On Bach,” and he began recording extensively, using multiple analog sequencers and banks of oscillators to compose on the knobs. In parallel with his electronic work, his more traditional composing grew in complexity beyond his ability to play it on piano and increasingly showed the influence of the Brahms, Strauss, and Stravinsky he’d grown up with. In 2007, under the guidance of his private teacher, composer Deniz Hughes, he began work on his “Symphony 1,” an orchestral work slightly over an hour in length, completed in 2009.
During the same period he began scoring films, an exciting collaborative process he found he loved. In 2010 he moved to Los Angeles to pursue film scoring. He spent the next several years participating in Hollywood’s film and TV world, having the privilege to create scores for several films and web series, including the feature documentary, “The Man Who Saved Ben Hur” and the web series “Stockholm” and “Josie & Dale.” In 2013 he was commissioned to create a sound installation titled “Cascade Pixelation,” which coordinated with giant video projections inside Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater to accompany the ELLE Fashion | NEXT runway show.
Chuck lives with his wife Edie, who helms the dynamic Jacob Burns Film Center, and their beautiful boy and girl twins, who are pretty much the most entertaining people who ever lived.